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Katie Couric on move to CBS: ‘I’m not sure the country was ready for a female anchor’

The former TODAY co-anchor said the move to the anchor chair of the CBS Evening News in 2006 resulted in a "culture clash" and that she encountered sexism "internally and externally."

Katie Couric said Tuesday that she felt naive for believing when she left TODAY for CBS in 2006 that the country was ready for a solo female anchor on a nightly news show.

The former TODAY co-anchor sat down with the 3rd hour of TODAY and reflected on her groundbreaking run as the anchor of CBS Evening News, which ended in 2011.

Couric, 64, left TODAY after 15 years in 2006 to become the first woman to be the solo anchor of a nightly news broadcast on a major network. She left five years later as CBS Evening News languished in third place in the ratings behind NBC Nightly News and ABC World News.

"Because I enjoyed such a great position at the TODAY show, I thought America was really ready for a female anchor of the evening news, and I think we were just not as far along as I naively thought," she told the 3rd hour on Tuesday.

"I’m not sure if the country was ready for a female anchor — maybe they weren’t just ready for me as a female anchor because of their perceptions of me," she said. "But I really went there to say a woman can do this job with confidence and competence, and that’s really what motivated my decision."

CBS Evening News With Katie Couric
Katie Couric in Nov. 2010 as the anchor of CBS Evening News.CBS via Getty Images

Couric had become a beloved figure at TODAY during her tenure — she was dubbed "America's Sweetheart," a nickname she told TODAY's Sheinelle Jones she had a "love-hate relationship with."

But she decided to make the transition to CBS after the network offered her an unprecedented opportunity.

Barbara Walters made history as the first female co-anchor of the network evening news with Harry Reasoner on ABC Evening News from 1976-78, but no woman had ever been a solo anchor of a nightly broadcast on one of the three major networks.

"I think I wanted to try something new and have a new challenge," Couric said. "I loved my years on the TODAY show, it's such a great job, and it's so much fun and the people are so wonderful, but no I don't really think I changed at all.

"I think the problem is probably I didn't change enough when I went to CBS. I was more of a product of the TODAY show and NBC, and I think it was a real culture clash. I don't think people internally really accepted me, and I thought we were much further along when it came to sexism."

Couric said she encountered that sexism "internally and externally" at her time at CBS. She announced in 2011 that she would be stepping down after her contract expired, and she went on to become a special correspondent for ABC News, to host her own talk show in 2012, and later a global anchor for Yahoo! News.

In her upcoming memoir, "Going There," she is blunt about her time at CBS, calling former CBS Corp. chairman and CEO Les Moonves "a close talker with bad breath" who lured her from NBC by massaging her ego.

Moonves resigned in 2018 following multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse.

Couric said she aimed to provide an honest, warts-and-all look at her experiences across multiple media companies across her 42-year career, as well as an introspective look at her personal life and her family.

She also shared the fallout of her relationship with former TODAY co-anchor Matt Lauer following his dismissal from the show in 2017 for allegations of sexual misconduct, and her regrets over an interview with the late Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that she edited to protect Ginsburg.